Flamingos are a family of birds. There are six different types. They live on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Only the greater flamingo lives in Europe. This species is known on the coasts of Spain and Portugal and on some islands in the Mediterranean Sea.
The body of the flamingo resembles that of the stork. Both have long legs and long necks. However, the flamingos have a short beaks. The males are slightly larger than the females. Flamingos are usually pink in color, sometimes slightly orange in color. This color comes from chemicals in certain algae that the flamingos eat.
Flamingos are good swimmers. They also fly long distances. Adult flamingos live for about thirty years and are in captivity for up to 80 years.
How do flamingos live?
With their long legs, flamingos can wade well in deep water and search for food there. They often stand on one leg, which strangely costs them less strength than standing on both legs. They also often sleep on one leg.
Flamingos can be awake or asleep during the day or night. They also eat when they please. They like to live together in large groups. Lesser flamingos in East Africa live in colonies of up to a million animals.
Flamingos have a filter in their beak, similar to baleen whales. They use it to get plankton out of the water, which is very small creatures. But they also eat fish, small crabs, mussels, and snails, but also seeds of aquatic plants. This includes rice.
How do flamingos reproduce?
Flamingos do not need a specific season to reproduce. A colony always breeds at the same time, usually after rain or simply when there is enough food. They build their nest out of mud, which they pile up into a small crater. The female usually only lay one egg at a time. An egg is two to three times as heavy as a chicken egg.
Nesting flamingos fly up to forty kilometers in search of food. The young hatch after about four weeks. It wears gray down and is initially fed on a special liquid that both parents regurgitate from the upper part of the digestive organs.
This liquid is called crop milk. It is somewhat similar to mammalian milk because it is high in fat and protein. Otherwise, it’s not actually milking because flamingos are birds and not mammals.
The cub first learns to swim and walk. At around three months, it can find its own food. It then likes to be with other young animals.
Eggs and hatchlings have many enemies: seagulls, crows, birds of prey, and marabous, which belong to the stork family. Worse, however, is flooding: it can destroy the brood of an entire colony. But too little water is also a danger: the parents then find no food nearby and predators reach the nests from land.